Tittabawasee River

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University is getting  $14 million to study how dioxins affect human health.

MSU researchers will look for ways to remove dioxins from the environment and reach out to communities burdened with the toxic pollutants.

Dioxin contamination has been a problem in parts of Michigan, including along the Tittabawassee and Kalamazoo Rivers.

Norbert Kaminski is heading up the multi-disciplinary study. He notes that dioxins have been linked to illnesses like cancer.

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials say they're a couple of years away from settling on a plan for cleaning up a 24-mile section of the Tittabawassee River polluted with dioxin from a Dow Chemical Co. plant.

The Environmental Protection Agency provided an update on the cleanup Monday during a community advisory group meeting at Saginaw Valley State University.

Dow Chemical will begin removing pollution from a three-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee River near its Midland plant.

Dow already removed dioxin and furan contamination in the area; but there are five other chemicals that remain that can be harmful to wildlife.

The company just finished removing a dioxin-laced island in the river.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A major cleanup project along the Tittabawassee River is moving into its final planning stages. It’s a project that presents several challenges.   

Dioxin contamination has been the subject of many cleanup projects in the Tittabawassee River. This new project will focus on other dangerous chemicals, like arsenic, dumped into the river in the past.

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Back in 2003, more than 150 homeowners got together to file a class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical in Midland.

The homeowners claimed that their property values had dropped because of dioxin pollution released by Dow.

Now, a judge in Saginaw has ruled that the homeowners do not have class-action standing in the lawsuit. If they want to sue Dow for their loss, the homeowners will now have to file individual lawsuits.

Photo by Shawn Allee

Dow Chemical polluted the Tittabawassee River with dioxin. Dioxin has been linked to several health issues, including cancer. A comprehensive clean up of the river has barely begun. Dow chemical, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state have wrestled over the cleanup for 30 years.

Michelle Hurd Riddick has spent the last 10 years of her life pushing to get the Tittabawassee River cleaned up.

When she’s not working as a nurse, she has helped file lawsuits against Dow. She religiously attends public meetings about the clean up and follows what the EPA is doing by filing freedom of information requests. And she writes a lot of letters to state and federal officials.

Hurd Riddick is part of an environmental group called the Lone Tree Council. She talked about how she felt as we drove along the river.

“I get frustrated. I get frustrated. There are a number of citizens you know who have hung in on this issue as long as I’ve been on this issue. But not a lot of them. They have to get on with their lives. And I understand that and I respect that.”

The Tittabawassee flows through Hurd Riddick’s hometown of Saginaw before emptying its waters and contaminated sediment into Lake Huron.

Dow did not want to be recorded for this story.

Lisa Williams / United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The Tittabawassee River has flooded three times already this year. Each time floodwaters carry dirt from the bottom of the river all over yards, basements, fields and parks.

This sediment is contaminated with Dioxin from Dow chemical’s plant in Midland. Dioxin has been linked to a host of health problems including cancer.